Why we were wrong


The Useful Stuff

The Useful Stuff



A report in this month’s FOCUS magazine details how “winning in politics is about telling the right stories and hitting the right nerves”. We knew that. What we also insisted is that there should be more debate and less confrontation – what we like to term mud-slinging. Scientifically speaking it seems we were wrong. Apparently the brain gives priority to threatening information and that means that the mud slung at your opponent is much more likely to convince the voters’ brain than some positive point in your agenda. 

This seemed to be confirmed when Obamas points swung upwards after he began to attribute the economic disaster to the ideology of Geroge Bush and John McCain. On the other hand, the negative McCain campaign regarding the american-ness of Obama did gain points for John but not enough to swing the polls to his favour. 

From FOCUS (Who is going to win the US Presidential election?):

If you’re a politician. there are four types of stories that matter. There’s the story you tell about yourself, the story your opponent tells about himself, the story your opponent tells about you and the story you tell about your opponent. Taken together, they leave a ‘gut feeling’ in voters that determines who will win. Sure, ‘issues’ matter, but only to the extent that they enter into that emotional equation. Any politician who fails to raise concerns about his opponent (a frequent mistake of the left) is running against the brain, which preferentially attends to threatening information.  – Prof. Drew Westen


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